Executive Chef Jarett Appell is just as dedicated to creating an authentic Neapolitan experience for diners as Donatella herself. Jarett, a New Orleans transplant, who has a tattoo of a Bob’s Big Boy-esque pizzaiolo on his right arm, spent three months in Naples training under Enzo Coccia, a master pizzaiolo, to refine his skills. And that’s where Donatella’s gold bedazzled pizza oven comes in again to take center stage. To create such incomparable authentic Neapolitan pizza you can’t just throw your pizzas into any pizza oven. You have to build you own from five tons of volcanic stone from Mount Vesuvius. Not even kidding. In order for Jarett to cook the perfect Neapolitan pizza he would need the perfect Neapolitan wood-burning pizza oven. Otherwise, what’s the point? The stones and other oven parts took three weeks to get to New York and another two weeks to be assembled by two Neapolitan men who kept their secret oven building techniques under wraps until the oven was completed. All that hard work paid off and the proof is in the pizza.
Donatella’s is not known solely for their amazing pizzas but also for “fus[ing] elements of a traditional Italian restaurant” for diners to enjoy. To showcase all the Neapolitan cuisine has to offer we also tried a number of other dishes during our dinner at Donatella’s. Below you will find our suggestions:
- For an appetizer we enjoyed Spicy Tomato Braised Veal Meatballs (also in regular). These meatballs aren’t just any other meatball the won Food & Wine’s “Best Meatball” award in 2010. The melt in your mouth veal balls are cooked to perfection first on stove-top and finished off in the broiler.
- Another great starter is the Marinated Grilled Zucchini and Baby Arugula Salad with fennel vinaigrette, mint, and ricotta salata. This salad is light with just the right amount of tart vinegar notes to be the ideal spring salad.
- Do not skip the Prosciutto di Parma & “Caseificio delle Rose” Burrata with pesto and bread. The burrata is as fresh, arriving weekly on Thursday mornings, as an imported cheese is going to get. If you’re unfamiliar with burrata it is absolutely worth trying. Burrata is made from mozzarella and cream with the outside shell being made completely of mozzarella while the inside is filled with a combination of mozzarella and cream giving this cheese its unique and creamy texture.
- A new dish for spring, the Sweet Pea Raviolis with caciocavallo fonduta, mint, percorino, and pea tendrils is another dish that shouldn’t be passed up. Even if you’re not into peas these flavorful raviolis are delicious, delicate, and beautifully plated within a bed of pea tendrils. The mint gives the dish an added sense that spring has sprung.
Donatella’s extensive wine list features wines from the Campanian region, showcasing the “vast and varied profile of the region” unknown to some American diners. Joonbug was lucky enough to be there while Donatella was attending a book signing and she chose two wines to pair with our meal. The first was the Aspirino d’Aversa Brut, i Borboni, a dry white sparkling wine with citrus notes. Donatella’s second pairing was the unfamiliar to most, Greco di Tufo, Feudi di San Gregorio 2009, also a white wine with citrus and mineral notes.
Put aside extra room for dessert, Executive Pasty Chef Andrea Jarosh, a self-proclaimed “grandma [of] the kitchen” creates comfort food desserts that instantly bring you back to your childhood. Andrea brought us out a dessert sampler tray that included a velvety Chocolate Tart with banana gelato, hazelnuts, and fresh pieces of banana, a perfectly crunchy Fresh Ricotta Canoli with citron, orange blossoms and a garnish of chocolate and candied pistachios, a light but decadent Coconut Cake with whipped coconut mousse, seasonal fruit and coconut sorbet, and our favorite, that truly did bring us back to childhood holidays, a Rainbow Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich.